If you are traveling in the Southwestern U.S., why not take a detour to explore Mexico’s touristy border towns? Some people will try to convince you that traveling anywhere near the borderlands is dangerous, but now that I’ve crossed more times than I can count, I can say with confidence that I’ve been more afraid in some U.S. cities than I ever have in these tourist-friendly stop-overs.
Many RVers regularly travel to Mexico for affordable dental care and pharmaceutical drugs, and they’ll tell you the same thing; if you use common sense and stick to border towns that cater to tourists, crossing into Mexico for the day can be a fun, adventurous experience. Here are some quick tips for a one-day Mexican vacation:
Border Crossing Basics
Before 9/11 happened, you could cross over with just a driver’s license as proof of citizenship, but today’s bureaucratic border security makes it a little more difficult. All tourists over the age of 16 must have a U.S. Passport or Passport Card (kids need an official birth certificate copy or naturalization paperwork), just to walk over the border. For a stay of more than three days in an area 20 miles or more from the border, a visitor also needs a tourist permit (available from Mexican consulates in the U.S. or at a U.S. immigration office).
Crossing the border on foot is the least bureaucratic way to go to Mexico and it’s the only way that Jim and I have ever made the trek. Each crossing was as simple as presenting our passports to an officer and taking mental notes of what we were allowed to bring back into the U.S.
If you’re brave enough to drive your RV or car into Mexico, you’ll deal with far more bureaucracy and shoulder more risk. But the advantage to doing so is you’ll have plenty of time to practice your Spanish while waiting in long lines at the checkpoints. Personally we aren’t crazy enough to drive over, but if you are, you’ll need to buy a temporary import permit for your vehicle. In addition you’ll pay a refundable deposit that’s based on the age and type of your vehicle, among other requirements. You can get your permits ahead of time by going online here. And don’t forget; American drivers are highly advised to purchase auto insurance that covers their vehicle while in Mexico.
No matter what method you use to get across, remember to use common sense while you’re there. For example:
? Dress modestly and leave your jewelry at home.
? Look out for Mexico’s many sidewalk and road hazards
? Keep your expensive camera at home, use a cheap, inconspicuous one to capture your memories
? Don’t take pictures anywhere near the border crossing or officials will confiscate your device
? Avoid using your cell phone to avoid exorbitant foreign call charges
I tend to get giddy whenever we cross into Mexico for a cheap little getaway, and there have been plenty of times when my husband had to remind me to close my mouth and stop looking like a tourist. When you’re there, follow his advice and maintain a low profile. As a courtesy to our southern neighbors, do make an honest effort to speak Spanish, they’ll certainly appreciate it.
Have any of your RVing adventures taken you to Mexico? If so I’d love to hear about your experience.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.